Japan

Uncover hidden gems in Japan with a different perspective.  

Dive into Japan’s under-researched and under-appreciated market and uncover high quality companies that are decoupled from the macro environment.

“Hidden gems” that are able to grow despite the weak macro

We aim to uncover high-quality, dominant franchises that can sustain strong and consistent earnings growth without relying on leverage or macro conditions*. Often, these companies incorporate some combination of innovation, disruption or overseas expansion.

Niche industries with few competitors

In niche sectors with just one or two dominant companies, the leading franchises tend to maintain their market position as there are no significant rivals to compete with. We believe this will lead to sustainably high returns for investors.

Growing trend of automation

As robots become smarter and less costly, manufacturers have started to automate to address labour shortages while improving efficiencies at the same time.

Dominant consumer franchises

Japanese consumer brands benefit from a strong following in the Asia Pacific region, with Chinese consumers in particular forming a large target market for “Made in Japan” products. 
 

*Macro conditions refers to the set of conditions that exist in the economy as a whole, rather than in a particular sector or region.
 

About the strategy

Especially from a bottom-up perspective, we believe Japan offers a deep investment universe with many high quality companies that are uncorrelated to the global macro environment - contrary to common misconceptions.

Sophia Li, Portfolio Manager breaks down the common misconceptions about Japan. 

Japan

Our investment philosophy

FSSA Investment Managers’ investment approach is centred on identifying quality companies, buying them at a sensible price and holding for the long term. 

We look for founders and management teams that act with integrity and risk awareness; and dominant franchises that have the ability to deliver sustainable and predictable returns over the long term.

We are research-driven, bottom-up investors1, carrying out detailed fundamental analysis2 to identify high quality companies to invest in for the long term. We travel extensively to meet with companies to assess the quality of management and their track record of executing long-term strategies; and supplement this with a qualitative and quantitative analysis of the company’s ability to compound growth in excess of the cost of capital.

1. Bottom-up investing is an investment approach that focuses on the analysis of individual stocks and de-emphasizes the significance of macroeconomic cycles.
2. Fundamental analysis is a method of measuring a security's intrinsic value by examining related economic and financial factors.

Our approach to sustainability

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) analysis is fully integrated into our investment process. Our approach to responsible investing has been shaped by an emphasis on stewardship and the belief that quality managers and good governance should ensure that environmental and social concerns are rightfully addressed.

To us, sustainability is not just a label, but a set of values by which we operate. 

As a firm, we have been signatories to the Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) since 2007 (we view it as a minimum standard) and are constantly striving to better understand how ESG and sustainability issues impact long-term investment performance.

Case study: Gender diversity

When engaging with the management of our Japanese holdings we have been especially focused on gender diversity, which remains a real problem in corporate Japan. Whilst there are many reasons for prioritising this issue, from an investment perspective we have found that Japanese companies that embrace diversity are typically more forward-thinking and globally-minded in their business. We view these attributes positively and as a good indication of quality. 

One company that we hold in high regard and an example of positive gender diversity policies at work is Shiseido, a dominant consumer franchise which we have been shareholders of for many years. When benchmarking Shiseido against Japanese domestic peers, we found that the company has the highest female management ratio at 50% and women on the board ratio at 38%. The management believes that prioritising diversity has been critical to the company’s success; and they have been working on improving these measures for more than 30 years.

One of the key reasons Shiseido has been able to achieve such high levels of women in leadership and board positions is by supporting return-to-work and child-care initiatives. A massive 98% of employees return to work following parental-leave, and there are two in-house crèches to support working parents. Through these initiatives, the company has been able to empower female employees and, ultimately, retain talent.

Following our ESG meeting with Shiseido, we increased our weighting in the company, as our positive views on the quality of the company were reinforced.

 

Source: Company data, FSSA Investment Managers, as at end December 2020. 
Disclaimer: Reference to specific securities (if any) is included for the purpose of illustration only and should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell the same. All securities mentioned herein may or may not form part of the holdings of FSSA Investment Managers' portfolios at a certain point in time, and the holdings may change over time.

Investment Insights

Japan’s equity market experienced a sharp growth to value rotation in January, followed by an indiscriminate sell-off by foreign investors as sentiment on the global economy turned pessimistic.
  • Webcast
  • 45 mins
Given inflation levels are picking up around the world, why is this not a problem in Japan? There are fundamental differences in Japan’s economy to explain this. First, underlying consumption has stood still in the past decade or so.
  • Article
  • 12 mins

Meet the manager

Sophia Li

Portfolio Manager

Price & performance

Strategy Overview

Key Facts

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SUT represents Singapore Unit Trust fund range

With effect from 22 September 2020, First State Investments was rebranded to First Sentier Investors. The names of the funds were also rebranded, please view the full list of the fund name changes: First Sentier Investors Global Growth Funds (Singapore Unit Trust / Authorized Scheme) / First Sentier Investors Global Umbrella Fund (IRISH VCC / Recognized Scheme).

Fund performance data is sourced from First Sentier Investors. Single pricing basis with net income reinvested. The above performance data is provided for information only and does not contain or constitute investment advice. A copy of the Prospectus is available and may be obtained from the Manager, First Sentier Investors (Singapore), or any of our distributors. Investors should read the Prospectus and consult a financial adviser before deciding to make any investment. In the event of discrepancies between the marketing materials and the Prospectus, the Prospectus shall prevail. The value of the Fund and the income from them, if any, may fall or rise. Past performance of the Fund or the Manager and any economic and market trends or forecast, is not indicative of the future or likely performance of the Fund or the Manager. Neither the Manager, nor any of its associates, nor any director, or employee accepts any liability for any loss arising directly or indirectly from any use of this information. Units are not available to U.S. persons.